„I’ve learned to take nothing for granted.“
Datum: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 10:00:46 +0200
Cheryl we are devastated by the awful news and very concerned for your safety.
We understand that the situation is extremely chaotic, if you have the possibility, please contact us to let us know you are safe.
Frank from Leipzig
Datum: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 12:14:10 -0400
Betreff: Re: Message
Cheryl and Allan are safe and well. I am responding to this email
because Cheryl was away this weekend and she wanted to make sure that
you know she is fine.
She will email you sometime this week.
Thank you and I hope you are doing well yourself.
Datum: Tue, 18 Sep 2001 18:10:07 -0400
Betreff: World Trade
My assistant Sarah was looking frantically through your book for the picture of the towers.
We didn’t really have a picture you know. I will later send you one I have taken later. I am sending you my thoughts over the last days.
We have received so many calls and e-mails.
Thank you for your concern for us.
We are all ok and miraculously as of yet know personally of only a few who are not safe.
However there are so many who have lost their lives here. The count is 5000.
I tried to write each day and what I write seems stupid from one day to the next. So much is happening each moment that changes how you think here.
As of Thursday, we spent our days running from the roof to the TV and back again. Walking around a very quiet city. By Thursday above 14th street you would believe it was any other day in NY City. From 14th to Houston there are no cars from Houston to here, only those who live here may enter. It is like a graveyard punctuated by sirens and the smell smoldering wet wood. Even in the loft. Friday classes resumed at NYU and the streets are opened to Canal Street.
I never thought I would be thankful to hear the truck traffic on our street, but I am.
I thought I would just tell you what we have experienced and share with you my concerns.
Wednesday and Thursday, my greatest fear was that we would retaliate before we knew who really did it.
One immense advantage to living in New York as opposed to the rest of the USA (where I have lived my life and loved it, where my family and friends live) is that we live daily with all kinds of people. Each day I buy an iced tea, a soda, or water from Mohammad who works at a store owned by Greeks. He is a religious man, a man with a wife and children, He is a thin man and we joke about the weight he loses when he fast through Ramadan, Muslim holy days. They are a bit after Christmas time. He works 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He is American and loves it here. He is suffering as all New Yorkers.
We are no one people here and yet we are all New Yorkers. There is someone from every city in the world and from every small village, someone whose life is the same as Mohammad. They are appalled at what happened.
I feel like in New York, we are like a mother trying to drive the family car out of Hurricane and the kids in the back seat are fighting. I want to pull over and beat them as my father did us.
Each year immigrants enthuse American with the American spirit. Indomitable against all odd they enter this country to work to build a better life here. We continue to be great because these immigrants have worked as hard as our fathers have to make us great. We don’t work this hard. People ask me what can we do? I have some ideas. I am asking you to use your brain, to think and to teach. Most of us are teachers, Teach.
Tuesday will change us forever and it started as such an absolutely beautiful morning.
I woke up. Al was dressing for work. We live on the third Floor in the corner unit, windows on both streets. From the Mercer Street window we look across a vacant parking lot to Broadway. Grand is one block north of Canal. I heard a sound like a truck motor then a boom that shook our building some. I though it was a truck that hit a building or one of the steel plates that covers the new pipes they are laying in the street was dropped by tractor. This usually shakes the buildings. Allan wasn’t concerned; he was occupied with getting ready for work.
No brakes screeching though. I thought that was odd. I went to the window and the guys working on the street were on the corner and running down the street about three/quarters of a block to stand on the steps of Elaine Mayes‘ building. Charlie, Sandi Fellman’s husband was walking the dog in the street. They are friends, photographers, who live next door. I tried to yell down to Charlie, but he didn’t hear, so I went down to the street. The workers are all talking in Spanish and Chinese and I didn’t get it at first but they were saying a plane had hit a building and you could see it from Elaine’s steps.
Charlie and I went to our roof. I stopped by and told Al and he came up with me. The plane was wholly in the building. There was a dark hole. It was smoking and you could see flames burning on the floors. You felt for the people on the plane and those working on that floor.
I realized it had hit right where my cousin had his company. I went down to our place and tried to call him but couldn’t get him. Sarah called, she was at the gym nearby, and was stunned could hardly move. She was supposed to be working at my studio with me today. I told her to come over now. I went down found my camera and began looking all over for a roll of film. Al took the elevator down to get Sarah and we went back to the roof all together.
I loaded the film and started taking pictures-just then there was an explosion in the second tower. It burst into flames and smoke as I took the picture. There were maybe five or six of us on the three roofs, Sandi and Charlie’s, and the next one over. One had a radio, two others had binoculars. We realized at the moment the second tower was aflame, it was terrorism-and we were sick in our stomachs. „It’s on the radio, it was a plane.“ „Oh my god. Oh my god.“
It was all you could say.
It wasn’t over.
We went down to see what was on TV. I called my cousin. He was home, not left for work yet. Thank you God. He said yes. It had hit on the floor below his company. „The company had taken a blow today we have lost many people.“ I told him I would get off the phone so as not to tie up the line, I was just glad he was alive. They were on the 97th floor.
I found the video and an old tape, put it together and headed upstairs. Someone called us back to the TV, the second tower had collapsed. We ran back up to roof.
This is just not something I could not imagine. It was like a movie. We were watching it and yet not in the participating mode like it were in real life. Do you know the difference I mean?
It was gone.
The Pentagon was hit somewhere in there.
The painter working on the roof told us (in Spanish) of seeing the plane hit the tower. He had seen it go up over the telephone building it seemed into the tower.
I started to film where the second tower had been. The first the tower that was still standing. We did not imagine it too would fall.
I can honestly say we were not thinking. It was so out of our realm of possibilities.
Electricians working on our building came on the roof, Guys from Jamaica and Africa, Columbia-not here long enough to know the names of buildings. Their own unbelief-„oh no,“ „I want to go home.“
You could see the fire burning one floor then the next, downwards under the hole where the plane was. The Cloud was dark.
„There are people jumping!“ „No, it’s debris,“ we said. „No it is people.“
It was a while that we watched and then the tower got darker at the top.
My guess is the fuel tank exploded. The tower simply collapsed in on itself just like a banana being peeled, steel girders like toothpick falling off the sides.
We were crying. We were dazed.
You know it was too fast, too fast. It seemed people and the buildings just vaporized.
We worried so much about the people in the second tower, because it seemed they did not time to get out. In the first-at least those below the plane, it seemed they had enough time Above the plane, you knew they would not get out.
We know that from that 50-60 thousand people work in the towers they couldn’t have gotten out.We watched the TV. The TV Towers had gone down so CNN was broadcasting. We watched the reels as you have seen, of people running all of us compiling what we knew or saw or heard. People who were from the 80th floor of each building have been interviewed on TV. We learned they had evacuated the second tower when the first was hit. It was the best news we had heard all day. There had been time to evacuate the first tower before it fell,we thought, but not the second it had fallen too quick. Many people were down. Out our window we could see people on Broadway. At first people were running up the street, and then they were walking- all day 100s, 1000s, in suits and heels. Sirens all day.
Allan called his office; I called Merce sometime in there. We watched the head of the Port Authority who had just crawled from under a collapse, himself; estimated 10,000 were lost in each tower. That was the only estimates we could get for a long time. We learned the story of the trapped police and firemen who had gone back in to make sure all were out when it collapsed -200 of our firemen-the best, 100 of our police. We lost our fire commissioner. He was a good man, a man who had been at Oklahoma City.
People were in a daze.
Everyone is kind to each other. The subways are down. People are lining up at Union Square for buses -so many people. We went to St. Vincent’s to give blood, the lines were three blocks long. We went to Cabrini Hospital and waited an hour then left. No one knows what to do besides give blood. We walk home.
The fire continued to burn. I knew another building was on fire. Then finally it fell. #1 liberty plaza -50 stories -that’s half the size of the twin towers. The cloud billowing black and white smoke all day the wind was from the West, blowing and dropping ash over the East River and Brooklyn. Ash like from a Volcano. Friends of Alice find faxes and papers from the Trade Center Officesin the streets in Brooklyn. A reporter holds up papers from the buildings with human tissue on them. I think some of these people were simply vaporized in the fires. They will not find the bodies.
The sirens were constant.
We asked Walter the architect who lives below us to go to supper with us. I wanted to get out of the building. Sarah stayed with us; she could not get home to New Jersey. She didn’t want to eat, so she stayed I the loft.
We walk over to Mott Street down. Canal was closed. We followed the Chinese down to Bowery Street. Bowery was cordoned off much further south. From there you could see the cloud better. Many Chinese people were watching and talking there, but it was not crowded as it usually is. No one was really going anywhere or working. Just standing and talking.
I had the video we walk down to the south end of Mott and back up.
Not much was open, a restaurant here and there. We ate at Mott and Baxter, then we headed north to Canal and crossed out of the barricades there. It was a bout 7Pm on Canal Street and the City had gone into action.
Parades of equipment were headed West, generators with lights, concrete barricades, small front loaders. Empty city dump truck. I didn’t know the city owned so many. No masks on the drivers. Walter though the clouds had asbestos in it. Marc, the doctor upstairs, thinks it’s gypsum in the sheetrock.
We talked about our air conditioners. He told us about how the buildings were designed and why they would collapse because the metal just got so hot the tinsel strength gave way.
We came home Sarah was crying. We were gone too long and she was afraid something had happened to us. We settled in for the night. Checking the roof once more.
You don’t hear much about the people who have lost family.
Just politicians, what about the people?
I woke up at 5:20. I can’t sleep. I go to the roof. The fire is still burning
Charlie and his brother, who could not fly out and is staying over, were on the roof. He has coffee. A friend of Sandi’s had come down to stay with Charlie and Zander. Sandi was shooting out on the end of Long Island with a crew. They can’t get back.
The friend tells me the story of Zander. When they closed the schools, a woman had taken him along with her son to her home on King Street. Because of a supposed bomb in a van on King Street, they evacuated to a friend’s on18th street.
Meanwhile Charlie found he couldn’t get into the area cordoned off because of the bomb threat to get his son. In the meantime, this friend who is telling the story arrives at Sandi’s, checks the messages on the machine and picked Zander up and brings him home where Charlie was frantically trying to get him on the phone.
Its quiet, except for the sirens.
We hear about a gas leak, then see a parade of 18 ConEd truck coming down Broadway.
We watch the TV. Another building has fallen and two have been found alive. Sarah is up.
Al is up. He eats. Steel workers are coming in from Jersey and Pennsylvania to help cut the steel girders.
The Mayor was on the TV. All below 14th street was to be closed to Traffic. No one is allowed below Houston except those of us who live down here. All below Canal is evacuated. We are one block from the evacuation. We have to have ID to get in or go to the barricade and get those without it. Another building has collapsed I think it was the Marriott hotel. Some say it was the Millennium.
We leave. Sarah can get the Path home to New Jersey-no one slept. Gourmet Garage (our grocery store) is open. They have had no deliveries but are selling what they have in stock. The neighbors are buying. No one is panicking or hording nor is there price gouging. The grocery store by NYU is open. Some are shopping. NYU gym is open for the students evacuated from dorms in Battery Park. This whole area was evacuated. Most residents were evacuated to New Jersey.
Al and I walked to B and H Photo meandering, the air is clear. The streets around the Empire State building is cordoned off. There isn’t much traffic. There are not many people in the city. Duggal is open. I drop off my film. Some Restaurants are open.
As we go home the wind is coming out of the south now and the smoke is coming over the island to about 14th street. There is a gathering; paper has been taped to the pavement by NYU students, people are writing, some singing.
We stop, buy dust masks at 8th street and go through the barricades to home.
People are calling and e-mailing us so many we can’t answer it all. People are calling from Poland, Italy, Japan, and South Africa.
I fix dinner. Walter eats with us. I watch the videotape I made and go to bed. The building now smells of burning wood. In the night I get up to put a wet cloth over my mouth to stop the smell. The air conditioner is on. The windows are closed.
We wake up.
Al is going to work. I don’t want him to go, but I really do want to be alone. I want to write. Periodically we watch the TV. A cop has come out alive. He was on the 80th floor.
God let there be more.
I am writing now. Some people are calling-the circuits are still busy. It is very hard for us to get calls out or in. The cell phones are not working well.
We are grateful
Friday, I get ready to teach at 9:30. There are still no subways, so I walk up to NYU. Half of the class is there. We talk about what happened. They were to develop their first roll of film today, but their film is of the tragedy. I decide we will take them to a processor and they will learn next week on rolls that are not so important to them.
Class is over. I go to the bank. It is closed and open at 14th Street. It is raining, maybe the dust will settle. I just go home.
The wind is cold and rain is hard. Now we worry that it will make the work harder. By 3 the rain has stopped. I watch the national memorial service on TV. Billy Graham.
I packed a bag, I am meeting our friend from Italy, Alice, at NYU and together we will take the Path Train to Newark. Al will pick us up there and we will go up state on the Delaware River.
Just away for a while.
No one can get out or in the country. The planes are not flying. Alice is panicing. Her parents are calling every hour. She wants to go home. She can’t sleep. We talk to her mother. She is glad we are taking her daughter out of the city.
I have to walk there is no subways the bag is heavy. Finaly I get a taxi.
Sunday we are back. The smoke cloud is billowing. The skyline is odd, like Cincinnati or something.
As we drove North on Friday, a front had moved in, clouds in the East are lower than those overhead. The sun was setting. On the radio we hear, „Stop and burn a candle at 7pm“ as a silent memorial to the dead. Flags and signs are on many overpasses.
The sun is setting the sunset is spectacular- more fantastic than I have ever seen in my 53 years. Its red and orange all across sky from north to south over head to the east there is huge a red square like a red kerchief, somewhat transparent like thousand of blood drops in the sky and it is to the east.
God has lit a candle. It’s 7pm.
We sleep sound, talk.
Saturday we spend the day with my sister, Pam and nephew ,Elliot, on the river. We try to talk, tell each other what we have heard. We simply cannot say that 5000 people are dead. We hug each other and part. We drive to Pawling, NY to Al’s cousins.
We talk late into the night. Both have been new reporters, Mary Margaret for ABC radio.
This is the first night we all sleep sound. There are no sounds in the night in Pawling New York.
In the morning we all go to church with her. The choir is lovely.
An old woman sits in front of me. It is Ms. Norman Vincent Peale.
As the service ends I took her hand told her how much I appreciated reading her husbands columns in the Parade Magazine as a child of ten or twelve. Thank you.
I will send you Sarah’s thoughts when she is finished.